The Secret to Making #WVmusic Look as Good as it Sounds

Jun 13, 2016

Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Tyler Childers to Coyotes in Boxes' Sean Knisely, Twin Cousins Records to Qiet and beyond.

But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.

And today, we are chatting with 37-year-old Jimbo Valentine. He’s not exactly a singer or a songwriter. But even though you don’t hear his work, you’ve undoubtedly seen it around the West Virginia music scene. From concert posters in Morgantown and Huntington to album artwork for Charleston bands to listening party signage down in Fayetteville, Jimbo’s work makes West Virginia music just as eye-catching as it is ear-catching.  Since he’s worked on over 1200 pieces for various artists over the years, we asked him about his creative process, his favorite pieces and how music plays a role in his artistic life.

Jimbo Valentine is a graphic designer with Brand Yourself, not to mention a freelance artist. Hear #WVmusic (some of which he’s created posters for) on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds!

Jimbo Valentine regularly designs Huntington Music & Art Festival promotional material, including this poster from last year's festival.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

Interview Highlights

On the art he creates in and around West Virginia:

I do a lot of graphic design around the area and the state, making posters for The V Club and Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, as well as bands and events and festivals and really whoever needs whatever they need. I do a lot of album layouts and T-shirt designs and sticker designs. I also… oh man, I don’t know where to start [laughing]. Designing the cards for West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s #WhyListen: First Listen Music Party was a fun event to do.

A lot of people like to look down on West Virginia and don’t think we have much of anything to offer. But we actually have really good artist communities that have been building and building. I started working at The V Club in 2009, and I had been doing a little stuff before that, but that was when I really started getting more involved with everybody in the region. Ever since then, it’s been non-stop growing. Just all kinds of people you don’t expect who play music and make art and do all kinds of stuff. That’s really one of the best things we have to offer. But it’s getting people to recognize that.

On moving from Fairmont to Huntington:

I’m from Fairmont, from up in-between Morgantown and Parkersburg. Actually, this May marks my 14th anniversary of living down here in Huntington. I’ve almost lived here in Huntington as much as I’ve lived up in Fairmont. At this point of time, Huntington feels more like my home than Fairmont actually is.

Like most stories, it was a failed love story. I moved down here with a girl who was from Huntington and who graduated from West Virginia University. Give a year or so, she was out of the picture, and I was just left here. I started going to Marshall University for a little bit, and it didn’t work out too great. Now I’m here [laughing], trying to do something. I don’t know what, but…

On getting into art:

I had grown up doing art in high school, and I started taking art at Fairmont State for a year-and-a-half, but I dropped out of there. I didn’t do any art for a long time, but after I moved down here, I had a bunch of time on my hands and started learning how to use Photoshop. I bought some screen printing gear and taught myself how to screen print. I decided I’d try to make a go at this for a living, which I’m still working towards. So I tried learning how to do it around 2007, but 2009 is when I really kicked it off.

This 2006 Todd Burge / 63 Eyes / Tripleshot show marked Jimbo Valentine's first as a #WVmusic graphic designer.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

On his first gig poster:

It was for New Year’s Eve at a show at 123 Pleasant Street for 63 Eyes and Todd Burge. That was the first gig poster I had ever done. I got hooked up through the poster community because I would go to website called gigposters.com and post on their forums, and a guy on there from Saint Albans hooked me up with that gig.

I definitely listened to 63 Eyes and Todd Burge a bunch [prior to making that poster]. In high school and my formative years, that was my band. 63 Eyes were some of the earliest shows I had ever seen, back when 123 Pleasant Street was still The Nyabinghi. So it was really cool to make that my first poster because it was something I had grown up with. Todd is obviously one of the greatest West Virginia musicians we have, and I still have a big place in my heart for 63 Eyes.

On the number of artists he’s worked with in West Virginia:

Honestly, at this point of time, there’s not many bands in West Virginia or the region that I haven’t done something involving them. Which is pretty awesome. I’ve done over 1200 gig posters at this point of time, and some of them I have had the opportunity to do multiple things for. Working at The V Club has gotten me to be able to do posters for national acts and other regional acts. Like I just did a poster for The V Club for Kiefer Sutherland’s band, which is a weird thing to add to your list because I never in a million years would expect to be doing something like that. And that’s some of the cool stuff that I’ve gotten to do: the stuff I didn’t expect.

Jimbo Valentine designed the gig poster for actor-turned-musician Kiefer Sutherland's recent concert at The V Club.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

I’ve done posters for the legendary bands that I like, including Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, people who have been around for a long time. I’ve also gotten to do posters for really cool bands like Man Man and The Felice Brothers.

On listening to #WVmusic growing up:

There was a band from Morgantown called The Law Abiding Citizens, and I used to go see their shows. They were a punk hardcore band. Fast-forward after their break-up, they did a reunion show, and I got to do a poster for them. That was really cool.

There weren’t really any bands from Fairmont. I mean, there were bands up there, but it was weird at that point in time because some of them were basically bar bands, and I wasn’t old enough to see too many of them. But 123 Pleasant Street (back when it was The Nyabinghi), sometimes they would do early shows that were all-ages and then at night, they would do an 18+ show.

Karma to Burn was a band that I grew up listening to. They blew up, disappeared for a little while, then got back together, and I got to screen print posters for all four of their West Virginia reunion shows and a poster when they played in England. I’ve done stuff for their side projects and such, which is cool because I grew up listening to them. Now I work for them, and now they’re my friends. To me, sometimes it feels like completing a circle of your life.

That’s why I got into doing this: I love bands, and I love music. And I want to make T-shirts for bands, which is totally a 12-year-old goal that I was doing in my 20’s. But that’s really where that started from.

Were it not for Maryland rock band Clutch, Jimbo Valentine might not have gotten into #WVmusic graphic design work.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

On his first gig poster for The V Club:

One of my all-time favorite bands is Clutch. They’re a Maryland / West Virginia-based band. I grew up loving them and going to their shows. I used to go onto their message board, and when I started getting into all this art, the guy who ran the message board hooked me up to make some screen printed posters for them. And then in 2009, the first time they played at The V Club, I had already contacted them and made a poster for them and showed up to the show with it. That’s when The V Club's Patrick Guthrie saw it and found out that someone in town made it. That’s how I got hired at The V Club. That was all because of Clutch. That’s how all this happened.

On the process for making posters:

Once they have the opening acts and bands nailed down, I get to work. The next step depends on how familiar I am with the band. If it’s a band I already listen to, I might have an idea for the design. Sometimes I get an idea and then try to make that idea come to life. Other times I sit down and start trying to do things that might look cool. I’ll find old stock photos or a photo I’ve taken. Maybe I’ll get an idea from an illustration. Or a combination of all those things.

Yep. Jimbo did this Jason Isbell gig poster back in 2014.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

Then I try to match it to the feeling that I get when I listen to that band. Even if it’s a band that I don’t know, if they have something online to check out, I’ll listen to it to see what kind of vibe I get from it. I’ll look at the things they’ve released and see what kind of vive they go for, so I can play off that. I always try to match it to the feeling of the band. I never try to shoehorn a band into a piece of work that I’ve made. To me, it’s all about representing what the band is about or what the band sounds like.

It also depends on the opening act. Sometimes you have a show where all the bands are similar. And sometimes you have a show that’s like a grab bag, where all the bands are different. Say you have an Americana show; it’s easier to tie it all together with that kind of imagery. But then sometimes you have a show that has an Americana band, an indie rock band and an acoustic something: that gives me the opportunity to do something a little weirder, a little broader. It really is a show-by-show basis.

On his favorite poster creations:

Some of my favorite posters are the ones where, when I did them, they were creative turning points for me.

It's been a few years, but people still talk about this poster that Jimbo Valentine designed for Man Man's 2014 show.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

The Man Man poster that I did was one of my absolute favorite ones, because it was one of the first ones I did on a new tablet with a screen on it, so you could draw right in Photoshop. I loved how the poster turned out, and l lot of people have told me that’s their favorite poster that I’ve done.

I did one for the band called Universes. They broke up, and one of the guys moved away, but I did a poster for them a few years ago. It had a Native American in it, but the techniques I used in it? I had never done anything like that in Photoshop. It turned out so well, I ended up using it as a basis for painting a mural outside The V Club. So that’s one of my favorite ones.

I’ve done quite a few for Tyler Childers and Ona that turned out really well. I love working with those guys.

On the #WVmusic scene:

It’s really, really good now. I want to say that a few years back, we probably had more bands (at least in Huntington) and maybe a little more variety. At this point in time, there might be a little less bands, but all of them are top notch. So it’s a balance of quality over quantity.

Tyler Childers is but one of the many regional artists that Jimbo loves to work with, not to mention listen to.
Credit Jimbo Valentine

One of my favorite things is stoner rock and doom music, and we had more of those bands here in Huntington a few years ago. But now we don’t really have those bands anymore.

On advice to folks wanting to get into gig posters:

If you know somebody in a band and they’re going to put on a house show or a show at a bar, see if you can do a poster for them. Do some work, show’em what you've got. And then if you have the opportunity, do your best. If it’s good enough, people will notice and people will start asking you to do it. You have to fight tooth and nail to get really, really big. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to get there, but sometimes it just takes being in the right place at the right time to get the right set of eyeballs on it. 

Music featured in this #WVmusic chat:

Of the Dell- “Runnin’”

63 Eyes- “Who”

Big Rock and The Candy Ass Mountain Boys- “Good Ole Wagon”

Tyler Childers- “Shake the Frost”